SOME GREAT OLD FRIENDS EARN HONORS!
It is with great hope and joy that we get to acknowledge our old friend, Gary Macfarlane, now and for many years with Idaho’s Friends of the Clearwater. Gary was a young pup when he came to the Utah Wilderness Association (UWA) back in the early 80s! There was nothing he didn’t do and we watched him become the expert on just about everything. There are no shortage of stories that could be told—some of them, I’m sure, Gary wants no part of nowadays. But almost all were hilarious.
Years ago Cordell Peterson, a UWA board member at the time, Gary and I packed some of Senator Jake Garn’s staff (and kids) into the High Uintas as Senator Garn was considering finally pursuing Utah wilderness legislation. We backpacked heavy and exorbitant food in the day before and then brought the other folks in 3-4 miles to look at some roadless country. Almost everybody got sick or very tired or blistered feet. The three of us stayed up late, bemoaning that we would likely have to carry out almost what we brought in, ohhhh…and more than likely carrying another person’s pack out. Gary smiled and said, “No way, I’ll eat the stuff tonight…” And he did, cans of stuff he would never admit to eating today, I’m sure. Much of the night he ate or horribly groaned in his tent. The food was, in essence, packed out in Gary the next morning! Cordell and I carried two backpacks each. Gary still roared out in front of everybody, only missing a stride on occasion…
Macfarlane could laugh with the best of them, yet tell the most off beat stories without a twitch of a smile. At the same time, he nearly trembled with frustration at the depth of the issues facing wildness.
He has gone on to distinguish himself as one of the most widely recognized experts on wilderness/wildness and resource related issues— often asked for advice, always providing it with an ironclad awareness of the laws and regulations guiding resource management in the West, and, more importantly, with a profound understanding of wildness.
The other guy, the other soul of UWA, George Nickas (George came to UWA as a slightly older pup), now and for many years the Executive Director of Wilderness Watch in Missoula, deserves recognition as well. In the last issue of the International Journal of Wilderness (see BOOKSHELF in this issue), George and his co-worker, Randy Tanner, published a peer-reviewed article, Evaluation of Campsite Impact Monitoring, focusing on the failure of the Forest Service to properly monitor campsite impacts to assess the effectiveness of wilderness management planning. Under the guidance of George, Wilderness Watch has become the primary organization focusing on wilderness management and policy issues. George is clearly recognized and consulted as the leading voice in wild wilderness management.
We also just learned from George that Clif Merritt has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Montana. Clif is a true elder in the wilderness preservation movement. A quiet and intensely personal man, he often goes unrecognized in the wilderness movement, though it is fair to say nobody has done more to preserve wilderness than Clif. For years and years the key cog in The Wilderness Society, Clif was happy to go unrecognized because his vision was so intense and broad, so deeply rooted in understanding the meaning of wilderness and how it would be protected.
Rather than leading any particular charge, Clif simply trained advocate after wilderness advocate after wilderness advocate while with The Wilderness Society in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He turned them loose to train others and they did; thus, the modern day wilderness movement was stitched together. He brought me into The Wilderness Society in the mid ‘70s.
Now in his late ‘80s, Clif then was a tall and lean brown-suit-coat, pale yellow-shirt and brown-tie, oatmeal-eating-every-damn-morning guy. Young vital wilderness advocates would look at Clif and say, ‘No way is this guy a wilderness guy.’ With the most measured tone, eyes so brilliant, an ever so slight smirky smile, Clif would grab your eyes and not let you go until you knew the whole wilderness history movement, until you knew the Wilderness Act inside out, until you heard story after story of wilderness battles. Then he would let you go. And you knew about wilderness and wanted so much to tell the story to somebody else.
That was Clif Merritt. Nothing phased him then and nothing does now. He and I were driving to Moab one summer day to meet with folks to talk about the old Forest Service roadless review many, many years back. The day was long and hot; a bunch of folks went down to the beach of the Colorado River in the evening. Instead of heading back, Clif took off that old brown sport coat, loosened his tie (I can never remember him in those days without that classic brown coat and tie), rolled it into a pillow, and said this would be a fine place to spend the night. We did, with him telling stories and listening to others, empowering everybody without anybody even realizing what he was doing. As the sun rose, we headed into town for oatmeal.